Sydney is blanketed in thick wood smoke for the fourth day in a row as burning risks are reduced ahead of the wildfire season.
ByThe Associated Press
September 14, 2023, 1:32 a.m.
SYDNEY– Sydney was blanketed in thick wood smoke for a fourth straight day on Thursday due to hazard reduction burning in preparation for the wildfire season.
Australia’s most populous city after Melbourne has recorded some of the world’s worst air quality results since the controlled burning of fuel loads began on Sunday in surrounding landscapes.
Fire services have carried out just 14% of planned fires to reduce risk in New South Wales state this week and are trying to catch up ahead of what is expected to be a hot, dry summer in the southern hemisphere.
NSW Rural Fire Brigade Inspector Ben Shepherd said burning was suspended on Thursday and Friday due to excessive pollution levels and Sydney’s air was expected to clear soon.
“It’s mainly due to the smoke,” Shepherd said of the postponements.
“For the next 48 hours, we will give this smoke a chance to dissipate without firefighters adding additional smoke,” Shepherd added.
Rain had prevented fires last week and an increased fire risk from rising temperatures and windy conditions is expected to prevent fires late next week.
The upcoming wildfire season in southeast Australia is expected to be the most destructive since the catastrophic Black Summer fires of 2019-2020.
The fires have killed at least 33 people, including 10 firefighters, destroyed more than 3,000 homes, razed 19 million hectares (47 million acres) and displaced thousands of residents.
Medical authorities estimated that more than 400 people were killed by the smoke that enveloped major cities.
Since then, three successive weather events in La Lina have brought unusually wet and mild summers.
The rain also created higher fuel loads and thwarted authorities’ risk reduction plans. Only a quarter of the risk reduction target was achieved through controlled burning across NSW in the last financial year.